Apart from the hippies, the caves were used as dwellings by prehistoric man. There have also been found several tombs, dug in the rock, dating back to the Roman and Early Christian era. The small church dedicated to Panaghia (Holy Virgin), dug in the rock does also go back to this period and it is dated in the period of Roman persecutions of Christians. The place used as a catacomb for the persecuted Christian people, as show the steps carved on the rock.
Today the place is considered as an archaeological site, the caves have been fenced and access and staying there overnight is not allowed.
At a distance of 5 kilometres North to Matala it is situated the archaeological site of Kommos. Kommos too had been used as the port, first of Phaistos during the Minoan period and then of Gortys. There have been detected traces of the ancient port constructions and there have been found several other archaeological finds.
Once in the area, it is worth sailing across the bay of Messara up to the cape of Lithino and the Ayiofarago ("the gorge of the saints"), just before Kali Limenes. The view is fascinating and the natural beauty breath taking; you will find small caves with access only from the sea, tiny cute coves with magnificent beaches and clear blue sea.
Within the bay you will find numerous beautiful beaches, which also serve as shelter to the caretta-caretta sea turtles. If you decide the excursion, it will certainly be unforgettable.
You may also visit the tourist settlement of Kalamaki, 11 kilometres far from Matala at the North. Those interested in archaeology may stop at the small village Pitsidia, 4 kilometres far from Matala at the Northeast, where there are several important archaeological finds.
If you are in Matala by the end of July don't miss to attend the local feast ("panighyri") in honour of Aghios Panteleimonas on the 27th of July.
Accommodation is possible in hotels of various categories, studios, rooms to let and campings. Swimming is possible at the beach of Matala, and at the nearby beaches of Kommos and Kalamaki; swimming facilities (sunbeds, umbrellas etc) as well as sea sport facilities are available. Taverns, restaurants and cafes offer good food and drink.
Access from Heraklion is very easy by public buses with frequent service, as well as by private or rented car and motorbikes. In summer, excursions with caciques are organised to the area, to reach places not accessible otherwise. However, the best way to really enjoy the place is by yacht, rented or private.